Coffee Time with Industry Vets: Diana Plazas

Traveling through Russia.
Diana traveling through Russia.
Think you know Diana Plazas, think again….

There’s more to Diana Plazas, v.p. of brand, marketing and digital for Caribbean and Latin America for Marriott International, than meets the eye, so we decided to ask her those comical, personal and telling questions to reveal the woman behind the suit.

At just 35 years old, Diana is already a v.p. of a major hotel brand. Her work in travel began when she saw a job posting for Hilton, and she just knew she had to apply. Instead of running around the block with a suitcase on New Year’s Eve one more time in hopes that the new year would bring travel opportunities (a Latin American tradition), Diana took the plunge and joined an industry where she could fill her passport, as well as her magnet collection. Not to mention, meet famous musicians…well, sort of. Let’s let her explain in this edition of Coffee Time with Industry Vets Q&A series.

Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
My family has always loved to travel. I remember my first passport had a photo of me as a baby just a few months old. According to my mom, my firs trip was to Ecuador at 3 months old. The first family vacation I remember was to Aruba when I was around 9 years old.

Diana Plazas meeting a koala in Sydney.
Diana Plazas meeting a koala in Sydney.

What is your most vivid travel memory?
So many! From doing the Sydney (Australia) bridge climb, to riding a camel in Wadi Rum (Jordan), or having a moment of zen at the big Buddha of Phuket (Thailand).… From moments of peace, to enjoying live music in the most random place, travel has filled me with incredible memories. But I guess my first trip to Walt Disney World as a child is probably one of those vivid memories of childhood.  

What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?
Growing up in Colombia, every New Year’s Eve at midnight, I would run around the block with a suitcase. They used to say that if you did that, you would travel a lot the upcoming year. My family now jokes about that all the time, and everybody retells this story. When I saw the job with Hilton (first one in travel), I knew I had to go for it. I had been running around the block too many New Year’s Eves in a row!

What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
A group of us went to Europe for a friend’s 40th birthday. We started in London for a Dolphins football game at Wembley Stadium, then whiskey tasting in Scotland and finished the trip with a couple of days in Prague. Memories that will last a lifetime and with incredible company.

Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
South Africa is on my list. I really want to go and explore, go on a safari, wine tasting, learn more about its history, spend a few days in Cape Town. I keep hearing amazing things.

Diana and her baby cousin visiting Paris.
Diana and her baby cousin visiting Paris.

Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
I try to, and it’s usually a magnet. I think I have over one hundred of them. The sides of my fridge are out of space and I’ve started to use any metal I find in my kitchen.  

You can tell us – do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?
Not ashamed at all, as you see above! And I love showing them to friends and family when they come visit my home.

What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?
Watch movies and catch up on e-mails. My team probably hates that moment I can connect back to WiFi after a long flight without it and the e-mails pour in. Sorry guys!

Who is your favorite travel companion?
My British best friend, who is now married and has a gorgeous little girl, but still goes on plenty of adventures with me. The best travel memory I have with her is exploring London. I loved getting a chance to see it through a local’s eyes, considering I have been there so many times and it is one of my favorite cities in the world.

Diana at the Great Wall of China.
Diana at the Great Wall of China.

If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
This is tricky because I have too many Marriott favorites, so I won’t choose any of those. I have to say Hotel Amanhavis in Spain. It’s a tiny, colorful, rustic little hotel near Marbella—lots of great memories. 

What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?

Best food was the pre-set menu at Pujol in Mexico City. Wow, what an experience! And the strangest was probably also that same meal. From the presentation to the ingredients to the aged mole.

What can’t you travel without?
My cell phone, not only for maps but also for restaurants, tips and so much more.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
Even though we didn’t talk to each other, does Ricky Martin count? ;)

Tropical beach or Snowy Mountain?
Tropical beach, no doubt about it!

City or countryside? 
City…always city.